Introduction: Multi-mode Key Leash

About: I'm an IT professional with a master's in library science. I enjoy woodturning, film making, and being frugal. Sometimes I make stuff that isn't horrible.

Everyday carry is a widely debated topic - what and how you should carry essentials. Regardless of how my carrying scenario changes, the number one thing I never leave without is my keys -- at least with them, I can still get back into the house or car to retrieve whatever else I may have left!

Keys are simple and most of us use some kind of a split ring -- probably a fob or keychain too. I used fobs for a few years. I liked the idea of having something to aid in pulling the keys from my pocket, but often this wasn't any easier than grabbing the keys, added bulk, and at best, still required most of my hand to be in my pocket before I could get the keys.

At some point, I made a shift to a lanyard/leash/tether for my keys and haven't looked back. Let's look at some of the ways a lanyard will improve our EDC and how we go about making it the best possible for us.

Step 1: Goals

From my experience, the key objectives for me were:

  • Accessibility
  • Not dropping my keys
  • Aesthetics
  • Cost-effectiveness

I'm looking to remedy scenarios I was experiencing:

  • dropping my keys / keys falling out of pocket
  • fishing my keys out of a puddle: having wet keys/hand/pocket to deal with
  • accessing my keys while wearing thick gloves/winter gear
  • keys attached with just a carabiner didn't reach my pocket from my belt loop
  • carabiners latched to the edge of my pocket ended in excessive wear on pocket edge
  • Carrying keys without pockets or belt loop.

Step 2: Concept

Items Needed:

  • Nite-Ize S-biner
  • 550 Paracord - several feet; braid and your height will alter
  • key ring / keys
  • scissors or knife
  • lighter

I opted to go with the Nite-Ize S-biner over a regular carabiner.The lower half of an S-Biner will be looped with the paracord. The other will then be free to clip to a belt loop or D-ring on my Go Bag. Because it has two separate loops, the lanyard and attaching actions will be apart from each other. That means detaching the 'biner from a belt won't mistakenly loose the lanyard from the clip. Alternatively, this also allows the top loop to clip to the split ring and form an ad hoc bracelet that can be worn around the wrist when pockets/belt loops aren't available. There's nothing worse than having your hands full in a pair of basketball short and a full set of keys weighing them down.

For strength and durability, I chose 550 paracord. I've been using the black lanyard, pictured above, daily for over 2 years and it looks like the day it was made. On top of holding up incredibly well, this also ensures that I have a few feet of continuous paracord on my person at all times. For feel, strength, and aesthetic, I've also left the internal strands in the cord. Gutting the cord would make this lighter, and is certainly an option, but would lessen the strength of the paracord.

Step 3: Getting Started

To start, the ends of the paracord are first bought together to perfectly divide the cord in half. A figure 8 knot is tied, then the *bight is pulled across one end of the carabiner, the length of the working end pulled through the bight. This will keep the leash tight against the carabiner. Leaving some play between the figure 8 and the overhand will allow for the 'biner to be changed out without affecting the rest of the braid.

*bight - a loop/bend in cord, as opposed to an end

Step 4: Braid

From here, the braid is a matter of choice. I've tried several variations, even going back and testing some over again. My thoughts:

  • loose weaves are more apt to get things hung in them
  • too thick a braid is uncomfortable
  • too long a braid is more apt to get caught on things (eg. chairs)
  • too short a braid is won't be handy without being unclipped

The braid that works best for me is a 2 strand crown (round) sinnet. It's a very simple braid that doesn't waste much cord (cost effective), doesn't take too long to braid, isn't loose, and retains its shape. I tend to work with more than I expect to need and test length as I get close to where I need to be. Full instructions for the braid can be found here - no need to reinvent the wheel.

As a style choice, I'm showing a two-tone version as well. This has a sloppier end since both ends are cut but is more visually striking. I've found that the black is subdued and doesn't clash with my clothing in the way that my other cord colors do. There are some tutorials online for blending the cord ends together, but I've not mastered that. I'd also point out that the duo-tone braid cuts the (continuous) length of string we have here in half. If having a working length of cord on your person for emergencies is important to you, I'd suggest a single color.

Step 5: Finishing Up

Once we're to the desired length, form an overhand loop around the split ring, making a stopped figure 8 knot close enough to the split ring to make it tight, but loose enough to allow the ring to rotate freely -- this probably isn't going to be a problem, especially as this gets used and stretched, but we'll want to be able to rotate the ring to get keys on and off as those change.

Test the length and fit once again. The length on mine is perfect for all standard locks, but for my shed, the height difference between my waist and the lock is greater than the length of my tether. You'll want to consider your use case and weigh your options. To get my relative length, I clip the biner to my belt loop and place my hand comfortably on my leg. I want the keys to be about even with my palm. This also ensures that the keys are in reach, should we want to grab just them and not the lanyard.

Make sure that the braid is even. Checking for continuity now will save us from cutting the braid too short before having to go back and correct a mistake. Once we're sure, cut the working ends close to the knot after pulling them tight; Hemostats might be useful here. Use a lighter to melt the ends. I like to use something flat and metal to stipple the molten cord against the knot - the broad side of scissors or a knife. This keeps your fingers safe and also helps to mushroom the cord out and keep it from slipping back through the knot. I do these one at a time to keep from getting burned or losing cord. Older, more worn, and cheaper paracord tends to drip when melted too much -- PLEASE USE CAUTION.

Step 6: Success!

So now you're ready to carry your keys in any situation - Clipped on and in pocket, wrist-wrapped, or bound to your go bag. Gloves on? No problem -- pull from the tether instead of digging for the keys!

This solution has reduced the time it takes to look for my keys. I no longer drop them or get my hand caught in my pocket. If my hands are especially full, I can unlock and drop the keys, knowing that they're clipped and will stay with me until I can empty my hands. It's also a quick way to check for keys if you're paranoid about losing them like I am!

If you enjoyed this instructable, please favorite, vote, follow, and comment! I have other articles on things from sock puppets to storage benches. Do you use something similar? I'd love to hear from you and see photos! I've been working on this particular design for a few years, so I'd love to hear your suggestions for improving it.

Follow me on Social Media:

String Challenge

Participated in the
String Challenge